App Attack: Switch (Android)

In this App Attack, we’re going to look at what could quickly become your new addiction–it’s Switch, and it’s one hell of a mobile game. In a world of Angry Birds and Tap Tap Revenge, does this one stack up? Read on!

The concept of Switch is very familiar–it feels kinda like Tap Tap Revenge, or an old PS2 game that I used to play called Frequency. You control a little plane, flying around a set of four “tracks.”. You’ll have to switch tracks whenever something comes in your way, and as the action progresses, and as the game moves faster, you’ll find that you have to be very quick with your fingers to be able to successfully move forward.

To control your plane, all you have to do is tap the left or right side of the screen to move to the next track. Sometimes, you’ll find yourself moving very quickly from one side of the game board to the other. Along the way, you’ll have to dodge walls and other planes moving across the different tracks. There are invincibility power ups along the way to help during those faster segments of the track. The goal here is to go the farthest you can without crashing. It’s catchy, fun, and you’ll continuously find yourself wanting to play more.

Graphically, this game looks very sharp. The game board consists of four yellow and orange “tracks” in space. The colors are bright, vibrant, and easy to look at. I feel like it’s the perfect color scheme for this kind of environment. It’s very easy to see obstacles that may come in your way, and that makes it even more fun. As the action gets faster, I did notice a little bit of slowdown, and depending on your phone, you may see an equal or greater amount of that lag (this review was completed with my Evo 3D, which is a dual-core phone…the fact that I got lag scares me for single-core phones).

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The audio track in the game is pretty awesome as well. It consists of just one techno track, but as the action gets faster, it speeds up and changes the beat ever so slightly to keep it fresh. It really does the game justice, and fits in nicely with the visual beauty of the game.

Aside from the occasional lag or force close, the only other problem that I have with the game is the ad-support. This is something that I’ve been preaching for a while now, but Android developers really need to get on their game and offer more paid versions of games, so that people who don’t want their game experience interrupted don’t have to. The ad sits at the bottom of the screen (if your data connection is on), and just sits there while you’re playing. It really detracts from the otherwise-perfect look of the playing field.

I really like this game. It currently only supports one track mode, but it randomizes where your obstacles will be. Down the road, it would be really cool to see some different colored atmospheres, with different challenges to overcome. This game is addicting, I can’t deny that. You can pick it up from the Android Market for free.

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App Attack!: Slice It (Android)

The hit iOS game Slice It has finally made it to Android. The game became an instant success on iOS when it launched last year, and developer Com2Us has brought the same experience to the Android Market. Does this version live up to the superior iOS version?

To throw a spoiler out right away–no. Don’t get me wrong, the game is just as addicting and fun as ever, but there are several issues with the Android version that leave a lot to be desired. The game has a couple of flaws, however, that really downgrade the experience from something that could have been much better.

The basic premise of Slice It is pretty self-explanatory. You have a shape drawn onto the screen. You then have to slice the object into equal portions. As you progress through the different levels, you will notice that you have to create more and more equal pieces, and it gets progressively harder and harder. This is a great thing, and also not so great too, due to the smaller sizes of some Android hardware. But more on that in a minute.

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The game is absolutely addicting, as I mentioned above. Failing a level just makes you want to keep on trying until you get it right. It is easy to pass each level, but only your accuracy in creating each equal slice will enable you to get a 5 star rating on each one. It can get very difficult, even on some of the easiest levels, and that, again, is due to the smaller sizes of some Android hardware.

As I mentioned above, the size of most Android hardware is going to make this game extremely difficult at times. Even on my 4.3″ Evo 3D, I was having a hard time with accuracy, which often leads to failed levels and poor scores. I feel like this is much easier to play on a tablet device (which, I have the iPad version and like it much better). In order to achieve perfect accuracy in each level, you’re really going to have to be extremely careful, and on the smaller screens, it’s not going to be easy.

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There is one major flaw that makes me not want to play the Android version of this game over yhe iOS game. This version is ad-supported. Big time. There are ads everywhere, in between levels, at the bottom of your screen, sometimes as you’re playing a level. The ads are frustrating, and there is no excuse to the amount of them. This is something that has become a pretty big problem with Android games (Angry Birds and Words with Friends are other great examples), and hopefully developers will start to realize that people will actually pay for these games. In contrast, the iOS version is only $0.99. Very worth the price.

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Overall, the game is good, but also extremely annoying thanks to the ad-supported mess that comes with it. For $0.99 in the iOS App Store, I feel like you’ll get much more and be able to enjoy the game. If you don’t mind the ads, the game is available for free in the Android Market.

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App Attack: WordPress (iPad)

In this edition of App Attack, I’m bringing the action home, giving you a behind the scenes look at how Digital Lust works, all thanks to the power of the WordPress app. For those looking to start blogging exclusively from the iPad, as I have done, will this app work for you, or should you find something else? Read on to find out.

The WordPress app is simple, clean, and extremely easy to use. You can add as many blogs as you’d like from your account, so if you’re a person who runs multiple blogs, then this will really be an advantage to you. Each of the blogs that you attach to the app will show up on the left sidebar when you first open the app. Click on the blog you want to work on, and you’ll be taken to a whole new screen with options to view your posts, your comments, your pages, and your stats.

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Welcome to Backstage Digital Lust! The main screen for the app shows your posts, your comments, your pages, or your stats, depending on what tab you click on from the bottom.

Let’s jump right into some of the portion that’s really going to make or break the app–creating a post. I will start out by saying that if you do not know the simplest of HTML codes, you are not going to enjoy creating posts on this app. When it comes to using bold, italicized, or underlined text, you’re going to want to learn those codes if you do not know them. It’s a plain text editor that you can use HTML on, though a WYSIWYG (What You See is What You Get) editor would have been more sufficient. The bottom of the post screen has an options menu, which allows you to change your post to a draft or a pending. You can also preview your post too, with all your formatting, to make sure you’ve gotten it right. You can also add images to your post, as well.

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The posting feature on the WordPress app would be better as a WYSIWYG editor, but if you know basic HTML, you should be okay to operate it.

The greatest thing about the WordPress app is that you’ll never have to do anything on the WordPress website, unless you’re out to redesign your page (Digital Lust 2.0 will happen…..eventually). Checking your stats and seeing what is popular, what is trending, and what your overall stats is incredibly easy. You can add, modify, and delete posts and pages, and filter your comments on what is appropriate and what is not appropriate for your viewers. The entire app is easy to use, and the functionality is perfect for the on-the-go blogger, or one who is in tune with the post-PC world (like myself). Again, the only gripe that I have with the app is the lack of a WYSIWYG editor, but honestly, it’s not all that bad. WordPress is available for free in the App Store.

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App Attack: Fruit Ninja HD (iPad)

Tonight we’re going to take a look at Fruit Ninja, the insanely addicting iDevice game that has been taking the world by storm. The game is fun, addicting to learn, and provides players with hours of entertainment–simply said, this is a must have.

The concept of Fruit Ninja is simple–slash a bunch of fruit, try not to slash the bombs, and earn the highest score possible. It’s really easy to learn, and incredibly catchy once you know what you’re doing. You’re equipped with a blade (you can unlock additional ones, which add to the replay factor), and you just swipe across the screen to attack the fruit. Multi-touch really comes into play here, as you can swipe with multiple fingers to unleash different blades. The objective is to hit only the fruit that flys up at the screen. Cutting the bombs will result in penalty, which differs depending on what game mode you’re playing.

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There are a few different game modes to keep you entertained. Classic mode gives you three strikes, and by not cutting a fruit, you lose one strike. Cutting a bomb in classic mode will end your game immediately. In Arcade mode, you have 60 seconds to slash as much fruit as possible. There are several different power ups to unlock, such as double points or time freeze. Slashing a bomb in this mode will subtract 10 points from your score. There are also bonus points available at the end of each round, depending on how well you do throughout the game. In Zen Mode, you have 90 seconds to hit as many fruit as you can. There are no bombs in Zen Mode, which makes it slightly easier, perhaps for someone who has not yet played the game. There’s also a fantastic multiplayer mode, as well.

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The game also has several achievements to unlock, as well as rewards resulting from your swiping abilities. There are several different backgrounds and new blades to unlock, which should keep players addicted and into the fun. The game also supports Game Center, as well as OpenFeint, which makes it more usable for gamers to share their great scores.

Overall, Fruit Ninja is a fantastic app that will keep people entertained for quite some time. Its on iPad and iPhone for $2.99, but there’s also an awesome new arcade game that can be found in various locations, including Dave and Busters.

App Attack: Angry Birds Rio (iPad)

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In this edition of App Attack, I’ll be taking a look into Angry Birds Rio, the newest installment of the popular mobile game series that has been taking the world by storm since it’s launch last year. For this version of the game, the hogs have taken a break from their usual maniacal activities, and instead been replaced with several other creatures to destroy. Is the game worth the hype that it’s been receiving? Does it live up to the hype of the Angry Birds franchise?

The answer to both of those questions is YES. Angry Birds Rio is much worthy of being a successor to the popular mobile game, and in a big way. The first thing you might notice about Angry Birds Rio is it’s name. The game is based off of the animated FOX film Rio, which released earlier this year. It’s premise is exactly the same as the other games in the Angry Birds series, where you must destroy a set of targets within a playing field by flicking a flock of angry birds around the screen. In place of the maniacal hogs, however, you’re left with bird cages (in the first chapter), wild monkeys, and so on and so forth. This simple change of target really gives the game a fresh appeal.

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The first chapter of Angry Birds Rio takes place aboard a cargo ship, where you must free captured birds locked inside of tiny cages.

Controlling the game on iPad is incredibly easy, and getting through the levels is a lot easier than playing on a smartphone. The extra screen space definitely makes things a lot easier. I found myself accidentally flicking my birds a lot less here, leading to having to restart the level less than if I was playing on my Evo 3D. That being said, however…the difficulty of the levels in this version of the game varies quite a bit. It’s really not all that hard to complete a level (I was through the first two chapters of the game within an hour, with some time spent away from it), but the real challenge is getting 3 stars in each level. In previous versions, it would take me forever to be able to make it through some of the levels at all–I definitely don’t feel that in this version.

Graphically, Rio looks similar to the other games in the Angry Birds series. The game uses backdrops and scenes based upon the Rio movie, which makes them even more appealing than the other games. Colors are incredibly crisp and it just looks so well, that I can’t seem to stop playing the game. Cutscenes are a little different in this version of the game than the others…instead of a quick video, you’re taken to a screen where you see a bunch of different slides compile themselves to tell the story. It’s not much of a hassle, but great cutscenes would have been a lot more compelling.

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Angry Birds Rio takes inspiration from the movie Rio, which makes it even more beautiful to look at.

There’s a total of 4 chapters in Angry Birds Rio to play now, with a couple more coming soon (I’d take a guess that the last chapter will be releasing right around the time the movie comes out on DVD/Blu-Ray). That should keep fans of the series entertained enough while Rovio works on another installment of the series. Anyone who likes the Angry Birds series will definitely appreciate this installment of the game, that’s for sure. If you haven’t picked it up yet, it’s available now on the App Store for $2.99 (there is also an ad-supported free version).

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App Attack!: Monopoly (iPad)

In this edition of App Attack, I’m going to give a look at something a little more casual for the iPad–Monopoly is here, and ready for the next generation. Forget having to count money, forget the hassle of losing property cards and game pieces, because the classic board game has arrived on iPad, and in a way that’s easy for the whole family, tech savvy and tech illiterate, to enjoy.

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Monopoly offers a couple different styles of gameplay–can you play against the computer in normal mode, or you can play in Tabletop mode with your friends. The game also features statistics based on your gameplay, which probably really doesn’t mean much to anybody. The game board is everything that you’ve come to know and love about Monopoly for almost a century–same properties, same game pieces, same design. The only difference here is that instead of handling virtual money bills, you use a keypad to manage your money. This is something that has been seen in recent versions of Monopoly, and it just makes things a little more convenient.

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Gameplay is pretty straightforward–you roll the dice, you move your game piece, you collect properties, and you move on. The controls for the game are pretty simple. You swipe anywhere on the board when it’s your turn to roll the dice. After landing on a spot, you have the opportunity to purchase that property. If you opt out of it, you’ll be taken to an Auction room, where you and the other players can bid on the property. It helps drastically lower the playtime of the game, but some might find it to be a little bit unlike the original board game.

Before your turn ends, you also have the opportunity to manage your properties. If you own all of the same colored properties, you can begin placing houses and hotels on them. You can also offer trades to the other players. The interfaces here are pretty easy to use, and shouldn’t be too hard for anyone to learn quickly.

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All in all, I really like this version of Monopoly. If you’re looking for something that’s quick to learn and fun for the whole family, this is a great game to try. Digital versions of board games really haven’t been all that spectacular or playable on PC or gaming consoles, but the iPad version really acts like it’s own board game. It’s available for $9.99 in the App Store.

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App Attack: Google+ (Android)

A disclaimer before beginning this edition of App Attack: As I reviewed it last week, I am currently using the HTC Evo 3D as my new phone of choice. The phone has yet to achieve a permanent root solution, and therefore, I am unable to take screenshots of the Google+ app without having some issues. As a result of this, I have pulled a couple of pictures from various different sources. My thanks go out to the following:

TechStuffs4U
AndroidShine
Pocket-Lint

And now, let’s get on with the review. As you’ve seen in my continuing coverage this week of everything Google+, this new service is poised to help redefine the social networking world by introducing a new set of features that are unlike any other. The Google+ app for Android has already been released, and, at first glance, looks a little bit like the Facebook app. There are only five buttons on the main menu, to access your Stream, your Photos, your Circles, your profile, and Huddle, the chat service offered on Google+. There is also a bar at the bottom to bring up your notifications. Everything on the main menu looks very clean, neat, and uncluttered. The icons are in that new, sophisticated Google styling that has come to life recently. In general, there is a lot less going on here than there is on the Facebook app, and I am completely okay with that. Let’s start to take a look at each of the different pages.

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The home screen on Google+ is incredibly simplistic. It’s very clean, and gets you exactly where you need to go very quickly.

Stream
Your stream is essentially the News Feed of Google+. In the main screen, you can view stories from people you have in your circles. One feature that seems to be missing here is the ability to select which circle you want to view–they all show up together. That functionality is something that they seem to be pushing on Google+, and to have that missing seems to be a little weird. Swiping to the left side of the screen reveals posts made by people that have added you, but you have not added to your circles. Swiping to the right side of the screen will show you posts from people in your immediate area, something that seems like a pretty cool addition. Even with my GPS off, I was still able to get posts based on a 10 mile radius from my house.

Posting onto your Stream is incredibly easy. Just click the pencil at the top right of the screen and you’re good to go. You can add photos or your location to a post, as well. There are also buttons at the top of the main stream page to just add a check-in or to add a photo. When posting, you do have the capability to just share with specific circles, which is definitely a nice feature.

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Your Stream. Swiping to the left side of the screen will pull up your Incoming posts, from people you have not added to your circles that have you in their circles. Swiping to the right will show posts from people in your area.

Huddle
I haven’t gotten to use Huddle for anything just yet, and I’m imagining that I probably won’t until after more people get signed in to Google+. The concept of it though is pretty simple. You can initiate a chat with any of your friends, or even entire circles. Its a really cool concept that seems very easy to use.

Photos
This is my favorite feature of the app so far. By bringing up the Photos section, you can view photos from within your circles (again, missing the option to filter based on circle). You can also view your photos, and do something called Instant Upload. I personally love this feature, as it was able to upload a picture from my phone to the service within a matter of seconds. When I tried this out, I uploaded 8 photos from a concert I recently went to into a Stream post, and they were all there within a couple of seconds. You can then view these photos on your Stream or in the photos section, under “Photos From Posts” under your albums.

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Photo viewing on Google+ is fast, simple, and clean. Just like everything else.

Profile
I won’t spend too much time talking about the profile features, as they aren’t too extremely different from Facebook. Your profile shows your posts, photos, and your About Me section. You can access the different features by the three buttons at the bottom. Posts are organized by time, and you can view who was able to see that post based on the circle they are in.

Circles
Circles are what really differentiate Google+ from other social networks. You can group people you’re connected with into different circles. You can then choose to share posts with different circles. This is especially a great feature if you’re working on a project for school or work and don’t want details getting to everyone. You can just choose to share it with whoever is within a specific circle. The one thing that I could not figure out is how to add email addresses from the app to be able to add to a circle. This is something pretty big right now as people are wanting invites (doing this from Safari on my iPad is sufficient enough, but incredibly slowwww). You can edit your circles in app, which is really nice. I want to see more functionality though when it comes to the circles in future installations of the app.

To summarize everything here, the app is not perfect yet, but, as a first version, it’s pretty damn close. The big deal with Google+ is the Circles feature, and I don’t feel like Google has completely implemented everything that they want to in regards to them. But again, as a first version of the app, it’s really, really good.

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